Telecom Act Turns 18 Years Old (And It’s Showing Its Age)

Eighteen years ago the Telecommunications Act was passed.  Since then, our world has exploded with new and innovative technologies conceivable only in Sci-Fi movies of the 1996 era.  While our technologies have kept up with the times, the Telecom Act has remained stuck in the ‘90s. (Yikes! Can you say shoulder pads?)

On Friday, February 7th we will be launching a social media campagin to draw attention to this outdated regulatory structure and why it needs an update! Through next week’s blog posts, our Twitter handle @DigitalLiberty, and the hashtags #18yrsago and #CommActUpdate, Digital Liberty is calling attention to the arcane regulations of the past that still govern our Next Generation technologies of the present.  

Eighteen years ago, we used road maps to get us to our destinations.  We had to rewind our VHS movies and listen to music on cassette tapes.  The Internet was inaccessible to most, only being used by government, some businesses and academics.  In fact, the word “Internet” is only mentioned in the Telecom Act one time.  That alone should be enough evidence that the Act is in serious need of an upgrade.

Today there are more wireless devices than people in the US.  We rely on these new gadgets to connect with friends and family, find the fastest route home, pay our bills, and have the news and weather at our fingertips.  Nearly every aspect of our lives has been digitalized in some way.  We are in a very different world than the one of 1996.

The Telecommunications Act needs to get with the program.  The 1996 Congress gave the FCC deregulatory power to get rid of dated laws and forbearance for testing new technologies.  The FCC should seize the opportunity to use its deregulatory powers, not continue trying to expand its own power based on outdated ideas of what constitutes connectedness and competition. 

If we want to remain world leaders in technological innovation, our regulatory policies guiding telecommunications must catch up and keep pace with the dynamic Internet age of today and tomorrow.